January 30, 2013
Lamb exports are set for another record year, tipped to increase another 2pc in 2013 to 193,000 tonnes shipped weight and will continue their steady upward march, topping 200,000t in the next two years. As outlined in Meat & Livestock Australia’s industry projections last week, lamb exports hit 188,618t last year, well above the previous record in 2009 of 165,035t. The Middle East and China retained their dominance, swallowing up 51,800 tonnes and 29,500t respectively. The United States was the largest individual country and most valuable export market at 36,700t. All are forecast to increase 4-7pc each in 2013. But the prominence of New Zealand lamb remains the thorn in the side of Australian exporters, accounting for the decline in prices received by producers. While the European Union is the world’s most lucrative lamb market, tonnages of NZ lamb taken are still down and so excess product is being diverted to China and the Middle East – where Australia has been having success. New Zealand exports were up 9pc last year to 280,000t swt but the EU took 6000t less NZ lamb than normal. It was diverted to other markets, particularly the Middle East which took 47pc more NZ lamb and China, up 57pc. MLA chief economist Tim McRae said for the second half of 2012, it was reported that trade was starting to improve in the EU. “A significant opportunity could present itself for the Australian lamb industry should the EU improve its economic recovery,” he said in the projections report. “With potentially 30,000t swt or more remaining for NZ to fill its sheepmeat quota in the EU, this would have to be redirected from other markets, with Australia the only other large global exporters to fill orders. “On the other hand, NZ has negotiated a free trade agreement with China, bringing tariffs on sheepmeat down from 6.7pc in 2012 to 0pc by 2016. Australia’s tariff remains at 15pc.” But the good news is the emergence of India as a potential market of the future, with a few small shipments of Australian lamb heading to the country late last year. Mr McRae said demand had been small volumes of high quality lamb for its restaurant sector but it was too early to tell consumers’ requirements and preferences. “India is a long-term prospect, it has been a positive market development,” he said. “At the moment it’s a trickle and real trail-blazing product going in there.” While the main growth markets for lamb and mutton in 2013 are the Middle East, China and the US, Papua New Guinea will remain a large market while prices are low – not like China – but willing to take breast and flap and other manufacturing lamb. “The lower prices of the past 12 months made Australian product more affordable, initiating a recovery in some markets including North America, that were previously unable to compete on price due to the high $A,” Mr McRae said. The strength of the $A – and the $NZ against the Euro – would continue to be a hindrance in exporters’ ability to move product.